|We have put
together this article to provide some general guidance on how to arrange
a funeral or cremation in California. It provides some tips on Californian
funeral legislation, some key points you may be considering if you are
planning a funeral or cremation, and an overview of cremation costs.
venue/location? What budget
do you have for funeral expenses? Just these few questions can help
present a clearer idea of what kind of funeral services provider you need.
Choosing a funeral home in California
One of the first things many
families turn to do when a death occurs is choose a funeral services provider
to handle the services. There are in the region of 1,200 funeral homes
throughout California, so deciding upon which funeral home to select can
be a pretty daunting task to do. It can help you to formulate some
clear criteria for what you want from a funeral director before you start
contacting any mortuaries. Do you require a burial or cremation?
Do you want traditional or contemporary? Are you planning ceremony services
at the funeral home and therefore require a suitable
If you need to find a funeral
home in California, you can use our funeral home directory, which lists
funeral homes by city and zip code.
What is the average cost of
a cremation in California?
California is one of the states
where the cremation rate is higher [7 out of 10 Californians choose cremation],
this generally means that you can you arrange a cremation at a lesser cost
than in many other states. California is one of only 2 states where
‘direct disposers’ are licensed.
If the cost of a cremation
is important to you then you may wish to check with DFS Memorials.
This is a network of family-owned low cost funeral and cremation providers,
with several locations throughout California, who all offer affordable
prices for a direct cremation and/or a traditional funeral.
By law funeral establishments
MUST quote prices over the telephone, and provide you with a General Price
List (GPL) when you make an inquiry.
Cremation Services in California
– laws that govern cremation & what you need to know
Cremation services are available
from most funeral homes in California. The average cost of a cremation
can vary quite significantly though, so it is important to compare cremation
prices, and ensure you are comparing like for like. For example the
cost of a basic cremation in Los Angeles can range between $625 and $3,000.
No casket is required by
law for a cremation but a suitable rigid cremation container is required.
This can be a simple cardboard container. If a service is to be held
before the cremation, some funeral homes offer rental caskets. The
next of kin must sign the Declaration for Disposition of Cremated Remains,
and a funeral home will usually arrange this as part of their services.
Most states have a mandatory wait time (24-48 hours) after death before
a cremation can proceed. However, the County Medical Examiner or
a Justice of the Peace can waive this requirement
Who has the legal responsibility
for making funeral arrangements?
California stature states that
an agent under a power of attorney, a spouse or registered domestic partner,
any adult children, parents, adult siblings or other surviving competent
adult kin have the right to make decisions about disposition arrangements
after an individual's death unless other written instructions are left.
The fees for the cremation permit
and death certificate are often additional ‘cash advance’ or cash disbursements.
Arranging a direct cremation
As California direct cremation
services are popular, and the state licenses direct disposition, a complete
direct cremation can be obtained at a very competitive price. Do
be sure to check around and make sure any direct cremation prices quoted
include the same service/products. There is something of a ‘price-war’
on direct cremation in California but some cremation providers may not
include all costs in an advertised direct cremation package. Be sure
to check the price includes the cremation container and crematory fee.
What is the average cost of
a traditional funeral?
Funeral costs do vary considerably.
The cost of a funeral can differ between different providers for the exact
same service, and many funeral homes refrain from disclosing prices because
they claim that funerals are not “cookie-cutter”. The NFDA (2012)
surveyed the average cost of a funeral at $7,045 and this was without cemetery
costs. Therefore, it is fair to say that the average traditional
burial costs in the region of $10,000. Now, of course, there are much more
inexpensive burial options and this is where it is important to ensure
you shop around and make inquiries from at least 3 funeral homes.
Arranging a traditional burial
Californian law does not require
vaults or grave liners. Many cemeteries may have their own policies requiring
them as they keep the ground from settling after burial and make mowing
and maintenance easier. A vault completely surrounds the funeral
casket in concrete or other material, whereas grave liners cover only the
top and sides. Neither is designed to prevent the eventual decomposition
of human remains. Many cemeteries also have their own regulations
governing the erection of grave markers, so it is wise to fully check cemetery
regulation before committing to any vault, grave liner or grave marker
Can I conduct a home funeral
Yes. The law does permit for
you to prepare the body of your loved one for disposition. If you
choose to do this, you have to file a completed certificate of death that
has been signed by the attending physician or coroner with the local registrar
of births and deaths. In addition you must obtain a permit for disposition
from the local registrar of births and death, and ensure you provide a
casket or suitable container. You would then need to make arrangements
directly with the cemetery or crematory for interment or cremation.
Human remains may be kept at home until disposition without embalming or
refrigeration. Although you must bear in mind that decomposition
will proceed more rapidly without refrigeration or embalming.
Is embalming required by law
Californian law states that
embalming is not required. However, a funeral establishment must
refrigerate an unembalmed body in its possession within 24 hours if disposition
by burial or cremation does not otherwise take place. You may wish
to authorize embalming if there will be a delay before a public viewing
period, however, you need to realize that embalming does not prevent decomposition.
Purchasing a casket in California
California law permits casket
sellers to sell caskets direct to the public. You do not have to purchase
your casket directly from a funeral home, but can purchase one from a casket
seller and have it delivered to your funeral home. They MUST accept
it, and cannot add a service charge for this. The law does require
that casket sellers MUST disclose prices at the onset of any discussion
about purchasing a casket.
Casket retailers are not
bound by the same laws that govern funeral homes. It is advisable to ensure
that you are dealing with a reputable casket supplier. You can often
save a significant amount of money by buying a casket direct from a casket
retailer, and most can arrange a next-day delivery to your chosen funeral
home if required.
Purchasing a grave marker in
Similarly a grave marker does
not have to be purchased at the time of interment. Generally cemeteries
will not permit a memorial marker to be erected until a few months after
the burial. This gives the ground a chance to settle and prevents
potential subsidence of the monument. Therefore, this gives you time
to shop around without feeling you have to commit to a marker whilst making
Check out our ‘Caskets’
and ‘Grave Markers’ sections for much more
detailed overview of purchasing these items.
What can I do with the cremated
remains? Laws for scattering ashes in California
In California, you may choose
any of the following methods of disposition of cremated remains:
In California cremated remains
cannot be transported without a permit from the county health department
and they may not be disposed of in refuse.
Placement in a columbarium
Burial in a plot in a cemetery
Retention at a residence - The
funeral establishment or crematory will have you sign the Permit for Disposition
showing that the remains were released to you and will file it with the
local registrar of births and deaths. You may not remove the cremated remains
from the container and you must arrange for their disposition upon your
Storing in a house of worship
or religious shrine dependent upon local zoning laws
Ash Scattering in areas of the
state where no local prohibition exists and with written permission of
the property owner or governing agency. The cremated remains must be removed
from the container and scattered in a manner so they are not distinguishable
to the public
Ash Scattering in a cemetery
Ash Scattering at sea, at least
500 yards from shore
How do I obtain a death certificate
The State Registrar of California
Office of Vital Records (OVR) registers all deaths. The fee for a
death certificate in California is currently $14.00. You may require
more than one death certificate, as you will need to send them off to more
than one institution, organization or government office at the same time.
Most authority bodies that need evidence of the death, i.e. a life insurance
company, will require an original copy of a death certificate. Certified
copies of a death certificate are usually available within 10 days after
Transporting mortal remains
from California to another state or country
If a death has occurred and
you need to arrange to transport your loved one’s body back to a country
of origin for burial, then you will need the services of a funeral home
in California familiar with funeral shipping. Transporting a body
within the U.S is relatively straightforward but international mortuary
shipping is quite specialized. There are funeral homes that are especially
versant with the processes for shipping a Mexican national back to their
state in Mexico. Read our funeral
shipping page for more information.
Can I donate my body to science
Yes, you can. You can
donate via a local medical school or with a national body donation program.
Visit our Body Donation page to read
further about this option.
Hispanic Funerals in California
California has the highest concentration
of Hispanic population, mainly immigrants from Mexico. Although many
Hispanics and Latinos choose to repatriate remains, the rapidly growing
Hispanic-American population in California places a significant emphasis
on "memorialization." What this means is that Hispanics are
more likely to spend money on a funeral as part of the tradition ingrained
within their culture. This has meant that a number of Hispanic mortuaries
operate in California.
The deceased had no life insurance
and I can’t afford a funeral. What help is there with cremation costs
Sadly more families are finding
themselves in such a situation. The reality is that there is very
limited public or state assistance for funeral costs. The state takes
care of any indigent deaths (as is their responsibility) but this is done
by the means of a pauper burial or cremation. Social Security offer
a $255 death benefit payment (if qualifying) and the funeral director will
assist you with claiming this. For some further guidance read our
article ‘What do
I do if I Can’t Afford a Funeral’?
What steps do I need to take
when a death has occurred?
If you are choosing to use the
services of a funeral director, you need to select a funeral services provider
to work with. He/she will be able to help walk you through the next
steps once they have the deceased in their care. Visit our article
‘How to Save Money Arranging a Funeral
or Cremation’ for detailed tips to save money and checklists to help
you make preparations.
What should I do if I have a
complaint against a funeral home?
If you should have reason to
be dissatisfied with the services of a licensed funeral home you can make
a formal complaint to the California Department of Consumer Affairs Cemetery
and Funeral Bureau. 1625 North Market Blvd, Suite S208, Sacramento,
CA 95834 Phone: (916) 574-7870
Hopefully, this basic guide
to arranging a funeral or cremation in California has answered some of
your questions. Please use our Library / Info section to access further
funeral resources. If you have a question, or need assistance, please
contact us or use the live chat facility to speak with an advisor.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
Homes in California
Memorials - Low cost providers in California
Last Revised: 09/04/2014